We have only a few more weeks left of All-Star voting, which is a really covert way of saying "Let's find out who's going to face the Kansas City Royals during the All-Star Break!"
And, sure enough, there are Royals near the top of every position. Some of these players are fairly reasonable choices, like Lorenzo Cain in the third outfield spot. Most, however, are not - looking at you, Alcides Escobar, he who is last in the AL in fWAR for shortstops yet is second in the voting.
But the most deserving player is Salvador Perez, and he's running away with the balloting at catcher. The ballot update released yesterday has him with over two million votes, while second-place Matt Wieters has just 672,822 and fifth-place Blake Swihart has only 285,059.
Now, though all you Mariners fans are doing a good job getting Robinson Cano near the top of the second base leaders, the same cannot be said for Chris Iannetta's position, since he's not even in that top five. To the casual fan, that's reasonable - after all, Iannetta's a random backstop who hit a lousy .188 last season.
Yet there is a case to be made for Chris Iannetta, All-Star Catcher.
AL, and I can't believe I had to leave off Kinsler, Trumbo, and a ton of good relievers: pic.twitter.com/8AI3sz0oyV— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) June 14, 2016
First, this chart of all AL catchers with at least 100 plate appearances, presented for your edification.
No, your eyes do not deceive you - that's Chris Iannetta slotting in at #2. Though his .231 batting average isn't that impressive, it's pretty good when combined with his .340 on-base percentage and a little bit of pop. Iannetta is an above-average hitter who happens to play one of the most demanding positions, if not the most demanding position, in the game.
Should this have been surprising? Honestly, not really. Last year excluded, Iannetta has been consistently good, posting a wRC+ of between 105 and 126 from 2011 to 2014. And much of his struggles a year ago can be chalked up to a terribly low BABIP of just .229, a sign that he was befallen by bad luck.
Let's also consider the difference between Iannetta and last year's black hole of darkness behind the plate. At this point last year, Mike Zunino had the following statistics...
- A .161 batting average, 70 points below Iannetta
- A 36.5% strikeout percentage, which would have ranked first in the AL for all players last year with at least 125 PAs.
- A wRC+ of 52, meaning he was 52% as good as the league average.
There's no way around it - 2015 Mike Zunino was absolutely putrid (Sorry, Meg). Going into this season, everyone circled catcher as a vital upgrade for this squad, and Chris Iannetta has more than ably filled that void.
I've also loved his attitude. Sure, he made a really bad error in last Monday's game where he simply missed a throw from shortstop Ketel Marte (not putting a link here because I care about your mental sanity). But his reaction was exactly what I expect from a major leaguer.
Iannetta working on the catch and tag he missed last night. pic.twitter.com/yc7DvlPqVZ— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) June 7, 2016
And what did he do in his next start? Oh, nothing much, just your average 3-3 night with two homers and a double. Getting over mental errors and rebounding quickly is an essential quality for a professional ballplayer, and it's one Zunino has struggled with in the past.
Obviously the Mariners are slumping pretty hard right now at 3-7 in their last 10 games. But I'm eternally an optimist. If I'm going to watch baseball, then I'm going to look on the bright side of things. Right now, the re-emergence of Chris Iannetta is a bright side, and I'm not letting it fall by the wayside. Keep it up, Chris, and you'll be an All-Star yet.